Show Notes

Here you will find transcripts, notes, and links to sources or resources for each episode.  If you want to know before listening to the episode or reading the transcript whether a movie is poly or not (perhaps to avoid spoilers), look for the Poly-ish Movie Reviews logo next to the title of the movie on each Show Notes entry.  If the movie has some kind of poly content, you will see the logo.  If the movie is rejected for no poly-ish content, you will not see the logo.  Additionally, you can also visit the Poly-ish Movies tab to see the complete list of verified poly-ish movies, whether that movie has been reviewed or not.

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Episode 32 - Lutine

posted Jan 15, 2018, 8:29 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Jan 16, 2018, 8:58 AM ]

Lutine (2018)

I was a little nervous about reviewing this film. This is an independent film from french director, whose name my American tongue is going to butcher so I'll let Cunning Minx, who speaks French, say it for me: Isabelle Broué, also known as Isa Lutine. This movie is pretty recent, having been released in 2016 having been completed in 2016 and due to premiere on French screens in April of 2018. I don't usually like what I call "artsy" films and I also am *quite* Ameri-centric so I have a really hard time getting into films made in other countries with other film conventions like differences in pacing and music cues and composition.

What made me nervous is that I contacted the director herself to ask permission to view and review this film. I've had other filmmakers reach out to me and ask me to review their films, and when I saw them, I thought they were terrible but I felt really bad about reviewing them knowing that they would hear first-hand my opinions of their film. These really old or really big films that I typically review are made by people who will never hear my opinion, so I feel a bit of freedom in being critical because I'm pretty confident that I'm not going to really affect the people involved. Now, as with my practice in affecting different tones depending on who I'm talking to, that doesn't mean that I *won't* be honest about a film just because the artists involved will hear it, it just means that I might be a little kinder in the delivery of my criticism.

So I watched Lutine with a little bit of trepidation, but I found myself surprised to feel really invested in the characters and the outcome of the film. The director, Isa, describes her movie as: [inserted audio of director description from Poly Weekly interview of a film that is a fictional documentary where the audience can't tell what part is fiction and what isn't]. For the full interview, which I recommend listening to, visit and listen to episode 541 French Filmmaker Isa Lutine.

I think this may be one of those cultural differences. She considers her movie to be a comedy, I'm assuming, because of the absurdism of blurring the lines between fiction and documentary reality, but it's not what a typical American might think of when we think of the word "comedy", with our strong roots in slapstick and hilarity, as opposed to absurdism. I didn't feel the way I usually feel watching what I consider a "comedy"; when I watched this film, I felt more like when I watch a drama. However, that's not a criticism, I think that's more of an observance of cultural differences because I still really liked it.

When I was taking film in college, a couple of film buddies and I got together to form a production company, under which all our class projects were produced (and then later, we intended to actually go commercial with our company, but we ended up all going in different directions after school). The first big film we tried to make that wasn't a class project was a mockumentary. We wrote a script for a fake documentary a la Spinal Tap that followed a group of college students making their first film, and we played an exaggerated version of ourselves in the film. So it was a little bit like trying to look into one of those repeating mirrors, where we just kept going down like a fractal. Except the movie that our documentary-selves was making was not a documentary, but a romantic comedy.

But we had actors who were playing actors who were hired to perform in a romantic comedy - so, like Lisa was a friend that we got to play "Ariel" who was an actress who was hired to play "Linda", the romantic lead in our rom-com. "Ariel" was directed by a group of "film students", who we, my buddies and I, were playing, while we were actual film students. It was all very circular and hilarious as we played up various personality traits to absurdist levels, like the time we blew up a section of a suburb because our Technical Director thought our rom-com needed more explosions, and the argument that our rom-com characters get into that required a "plate-apult" - a catapult intended to launch a dinner plate at the male actor's head at a speed of 88 miles per hour.

So this sort of recursive, Inception-like story-telling holds a special place in my heart. But that also means that I might be especially critical of a film that doesn't do it well. This movie, I think, does this well. The blurring between fact and fiction makes this film feel almost Memento-like with an unreliable narrator but in this rabbit-hole sort of Inception way. Films with unreliable narrators can be difficult to follow, and that's the part that makes this film a "comedy", I think, as we, the audience, are never sure which part of this is fiction and which part of this is reality so the whole thing becomes completely absurd.

Now, onto the meat of the film. This was definitely a poly film, as the whole point was to be a documentary about polyamory. It's highly unlikely that any filmmaker would attempt a documentary OR a mockumentary about polyamory and not be at least sympathetic to polyamory. It's just not a big enough subject, in my opinion, to attract anyone's attention for making a documentary film that explicitly uses the words and the communities, unless that person has some kind of personal connection. So I was at least pretty confident that this was not going to be an outsider making fun of polyamory (insiders poking fun at ourselves is a totally different, and hilariously acceptable, situation), or someone who was openly antagonistic about the subject and wanting to use the film as a vehicle to moralize about polyamory.

But something that *could* have been problematic is in the viewpoints that were chosen to describe polyamory. In the US, there are a *ton* of polys who set themselves up as "leaders" but who do polyamory in one of the ways that I label as "wrong" - i.e. in ways that are harmful and/or ineffective at leading to successful, long-term, ethical, empowering relationships. In almost every interview and media event that I watch, I end up yelling at my screen that polyamory is not something that "couples" do, it's something that people do, that not all polys "open up" existing monogamous relationships and some of us started out as single people, and to the reporters to stop giving platforms to people who do couple-centric, hierarchical, rules-based descriptions of polyamory so that the newbies who are introduced to the concept from this medium won't start out at a deficit thinking that this is the way you get into it.

None of that happened here. Everyone that was interviewed gave very practical, sensible soundbites about polyamory. It starts right out with a poly meeting where the third speaker talks about how reassuring it is to not be the only person in his partner's life, as opposed to all the benefits we receive to having 500 people all dedicated to us, servicing our "needs", being the receptacles of our extreme libidos, stuff like that. When we meet our first poly "expert", she talks about each of them having their own lovers, not about "opening up" or "sharing" someone, and about the dangers of "passion" that I might refer to as NRE (New Relationship Excitement or New Relationship Energy).

Then we actually spend a long time setting up the premise of the film, which is watching spontaneous conversations, then watching Isa construct scenes based on those conversations, and then watching the re-film of those conversations into a better, more editable scene. Or, are they really spontaneous conversations? We don't know! That's the point. After seeing how everything is set up to be fiction, we even start to suspect the original scenes of being part of the fiction too.

Eventually we meet Meta, a polyamorist, who is asked about the feminist aspect of polyamory. She unambiguously declares "yes, it's totally feminist, because everyone has the same rights. No one takes any liberties that are denied to the other. For a man, being polyamorous means giving up male privilege." I think this negates the whole Unicorn Hunting thing by implicitly acknowledging that a woman has the same rights to choose her own partners of her own orientation preferences as the men do, whereas Unicorn Hunting tends to defend it's "fairness" by insisting both of the male/female partners "share" a woman. People equate "sameness" with "fairness", and those words are totally not interchangeable. Having things exactly the same is not necessarily "fair". If a woman is straight or bisexual, limiting her to only women partners (and the same partner as her male partner at that!) is not "fair" just because it's the "same" as her straight male partner's options.

It's also rare in that, a lot of times when people have labeled polyamory as "feminist", they tend to not get the definition right, instead describing more of a matriarchal culture that is basically patriarchy in reverse. When, of course, that's not what feminism means. Having a gendered term like "feminism" doesn't mean that it seeks to replace one gender's authority with another gender, it means to elevate an oppressed gender to an equal level so that there are no more oppressed genders, which is why it singles out a gender at all rather than just going by "equal-ism" or whatever. So I was thrilled to hear them not shy away from the term "feminist" and to define it as "equality", not "women get to be in charge".

Later, more words of wisdom from Meta. She says "polyamory is not about couples. It deconstructs the very notion." When asked if she is not a "couple" with her partner, she says "if a couple is two people, we're several couples," and she points out the connection between the non-sexual metamours as its own relationship as well. Later, we see a scripted conversation where Isa and her boyfriend are talking about him being interested in another woman, and Isa wants to meet her. The boyfriend asks if she wants to meet her or sleep with her, and then accuses her of wanting to sleep with the same person he's dating as a form of controlling everyone and everything in the relationship. I think this is a pointed but subtle jab at Unicorn Hunting again, even though I don't know if it was deliberate or not.

This film even discusses the whole poly vs. swinging debate with, what I feel, is just the right approach - that poly and swinging "are inherently different concepts but not mutually exclusive" and swinging being about recreational sex while polyamory is about autonomy in relationships, and how a person can be either or both, as well as the ever-salacious question about group sex - it's not fundamentally a part of polyamory, you can have it or not as you all choose. And, it touches on one of my own catch phrases (not that it got it from me, but it's something I say), how the real trick to polyamory is not in feeling love for multiple people, but in how you deal with your *partner* wanting others.

I found this film to be touching and ridiculous and poignant and refreshing and real in its fantasy world.

Because this is an independent film without a production studio behind it, accessing this film is a little different than most of the movies I review, but I do recommend doing what you can to watch this movie. You can't see it on Netflix or in major theaters. You can, however, contact the director at and ask permission to host a viewing party. The requirements are that your viewing party needs to be a public or semi-public screening with around 20 or more people and advertised on social media, to create online buzz for her film. It's entirely crowdfunded and advertised by word-of-mouth, so it really needs for lots of people to talk about it for a distributor to think it's worth investing in the film.

When you have interest in a screening or viewing party, contact Isa and let her know when and where it will be held. Film festivals charge an entrance fee to submit an entry, so one of the best ways we can support polyamory in the arts is to financially support polyamorous artists. If you can charge your audience $5 or so, for an audience of 20 or more people, that will help Isa submit this film into international film festivals, to bring the concept of polyamory to a broad, world-wide audience. And, considering, as I said earlier, that this movie doesn't idolize the couple "opening up", but instead highlights the concepts of feminism, autonomy, and freedom, I would very much like to see more films like this getting attention rather than our typical Unicorn Hunting films and TV shows that somehow manage to find cable sponsors and Hollywood producers.

After you contact her with the size, date, and location of your proposed viewing party, Isa will send you a link to a watermarked version of the film that you can download and then show in whatever medium you're using for your screening. This helps track down copyright violations - again with the whole supporting poly artists thing. The director will even join your screening remotely through Skype after the viewing to take questions, if you'd like. After seeing the movie, if you can actually write out a review on real dead-tree paper to include on her website (in your own language), that would also be welcome.

So, definitely poly, I found it engaging, and I recommend supporting poly in the arts and this poly art in particular by hosting screenings and talking about the film on social media.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 31 - Shortbus

posted Dec 16, 2017, 10:43 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

Shortbus (2006) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

I'm just going to come right out and say it ... I didn't like this movie. I know, it's all groundbreaking with its use of real, actual, penetrative sex among the actors and it's gritty look at alternative sexuality. But I didn't like it. I didn't like the characters, I didn't like the situations, I just didn't like it.

Shortbus is a movie that takes us on a series of vignettes of random people with no other connection to each other except the Shortbus - an alternative club that features a drag queen host and just about every sexual desire you can imagine. We have the sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, the gay couple who want to add a third to their family (well, one half of the couple wants to add a third), the creepy voyeur across the street from the gay couple, and the depressed dominatrix.

Yeah, it belongs on a poly-ish movie list because the movie embraces all forms of relationships and sexualities, including consensual non-monogamy. I just thought it was a crappy movie that tried too hard to be avant-garde. The moral of the story seemed to be "sex with strangers fixes everything", and that bores and irritates me.

But just about everyone I know loved that movie, so don't avoid seeing it just because of my review. We might have different tastes in films, and I seem to be an outlier on this one.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 30 - Kiss Me Again

posted Nov 15, 2017, 6:19 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

Kiss Me Again (2006)  - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix  - Amazon

Well that was a surprise.

I just watched Kiss Me Again. The Netflix summary says "Helmed by William Tyler Smith, this cautionary tale stars Jeremy London and Katheryn Winnick as liberal spouses trying to add zest to their sex life via a ménage à trois. When self-seeking college professor Julian persuades his wife, Chalice, to let lovely coed Elena share their bed, the physical coupling leads to emotional repercussions."

This sounds like I should hate it. It even says right in the summary "this cautionary tale". So I was expecting the usual "sexy hot bi babe turns out to be psycho and destroys their relationship", or even "frigid wife reluctantly agrees to threesome and leaves hubby for hot lesbo". Surprisingly, neither happened.

Julian and Chalice are a young, attractive, married couple with a wild bisexual roommate, Malika. We know she's wild because she's A) bisexual and B) has lots of tattoos. Malika has a long-time girlfriend, and one night she brings home a strange and creepy guy for a threesome with her and her girlfriend while the married couple sleep on the couch after an exciting night of pizza, wine, and rental classic movies. During the night, each half of the couple gets up and stumbles past Malika's room, where they glimpse the hot threesome and stay for a bit of a lookie-loo.

The next day, Malika teases Julian about watching them the night before, and lets it slip that Chalice watched too, and she watched for longer. So that plants the seed for Julian to begin thinking of hot bi babes and hot threesomes - hey, if Malika's relationship with her girlfriend can withstand casual sex and orgies, maybe there's something to it! So Julian gets up the nerve to propose a threesome to Chalice, using all the standard "it'll be good for us" tripe. Chalice immediately freaks out, offended, insulted, and condescending. But then she talks it over with Malika, who implies that Chalice is just a sheltered, naive, little girl, which pricks Chalice's pride. So she decides to have a threesome "for Julian", but really to prove to herself that she's not a sheltered, naive, little girl.

So they place a personals ad as a married couple looking for a hot bi FEMALE babe to experiment with.

Meanwhile, Julian is a young professor at a local university, where he is becoming known for stirring up trouble in his classes by *gasp* challenging his students to think. One of his students, a woman named Elena, has a crush on him. She invites him out for coffee, they flirt, and Julian discovers a growing interest in Elena. One day, they meet in the park, they kiss, and then Julian backs away saying that it isn't right, he can't do this, and that's where things end.

Until Chalice agrees to a threesome.

Julian approaches Elena and asks her to pose as someone responding to their ad, pretending to have never met Julian before. Julian rationalizes this by saying that if he wasn't married, he and Elena would probably be in a relationship right now anyway. Elena wants Julian bad enough that she agrees.

So, the threesome is set up under somewhat false pretenses, everyone meets, everyone likes everyone else, everyone fucks.

It actually goes very smoothly. Chalice wakes up in the morning without bad feelings, Julian is ecstatic, and Elena seems happy too. But then things go downhill, as you knew they had to.

Spoiler Alert!

Things go very smoothly. Too smoothly. It turns out that Chalice not only didn't have any bad feelings about the threesome, she had very good feelings about it. About Elena, specifically. Chalice seeks out Elena on her own and begins dating (and fucking) Elena behind Julian's back. Elena has started avoiding Julian and Chalice becomes distant with Julian. Julian's fantasy threesome seems to be taking both women away from him at a time when he needs them the most - he's having trouble with his unorthodox lessons at school and his career is in danger.

At first, I was irked with Julian for pulling the usual guy-routine and for starting this whole mess with a lie. I was ready to write off this whole movie as just another threesome-gone-wrong tale before it was even half over. But then things started to change. I became increasingly more sympathetic to Julian and increasingly more irritated at Chalice. This was less of a tale about threesomes-will-destroy-your-life and much more like the mess that the Unicorn Hunters often find themselves in because they're too busy thinking about themselves and not enough about the human element in the story.

One of the things the Unicorn Hunters do is think that they can pick some random hot chick, have sex with her for their own pleasure, and discard her without anyone getting hurt. They make rules saying "no falling in love" or "do everything together so we all move at the same pace". This never works in real life. When a triad happens to come out of a married couple finding a third, it worked by coincidence, not because rules like this actually work.

Julian and Chalice, like so many Unicorn Hunters, did not count on falling in love. And they did not count on falling in love at different rates. Chalice falls in love with Elena and poor Julian doesn't even know that they're together, let alone what their feelings are doing. Julian notices that both women are pulling away from him and he tries to get them to talk about it, but neither will. Eventually, Chalice's conscience kicks in and she tells Elena that they ought to "invite Julian back in", apparently without noticing the irony that it was Julian's idea in the first place and Julian and Chalice who invited Elena in. Elena agrees.

So they have another group date that results in a threesome, but Julian is primarily left out of the sex. He finds himself superfluous - the women are getting along just fine without his assistance and they don't even seem to notice that he's there. Things spiral out of control as Julian continues to push Chalice into talking about what's bothering her and she gets more and more snippy at him.

Enter Malika. About the time Chalice discovers that she's falling in love with Elena, Malika notices too. This is where we learn that Malika has a crush on Chalice. The movie was deliberately vague on whether or not Malika and Chalice actually had a relationship in the past, but Malika's jealousy prompts her to destroy Julian's and Chalice's marriage for daring to invite some stranger into their relationship instead of her. Remember that kiss in the park that Julian and Elena shared? Yeah, photographer Malika just happened to be in the park that day doing a shoot and just happened to take pictures of that kiss.

So Malika announces that she's moving out and leaves a stack of photos that she took of Julian and Chalice on the counter. Julian and Chalice come home at about the same time, both ready to apologize to each other and try to work things out, but they decide to look at the pictures first. Hidden in about the middle of the pile is the photo of Julian and Elena kissing.

Chalice completely loses her shit. She yells at Julian for fucking Elena behind her back (and no, she doesn't notice the hypocrisy here), calls him names, and storms out on him. Why the fuck do people get accused of doing things they didn't do and then they don't correct them? Julian does not tell Chalice that he never slept with Elena, he just keeps saying "it's not what it looks like, can we talk about this?" Dude, everyone knows "it's not what it looks like" is the code phrase for "it's exactly what it looks like but I'm stalling because I need to think up a good cover story".

So, at this point, I'm starting to revise my opinion again. I've gone from the first assumption that this movie is going to be a typical threesomes-are-doomed-to-fail movie, to "this is actually a bit polyish in that married poly newbies make these kinds of mistakes all the time and think they can prescript who will fall in love with who and at what pace", to now "oh great, lack of communication, hypocrisy, arrogance, this whole thing is going to shit".

At this point, I began to hate Chalice. While watching her stomp around, sneering at everyone and shouting insults, a repetitive litany ran through my head: "sanctimonious, pretentious, hypocritical, arrogant, self-serving, lying, double-standard, cheating asshole." I gotta hand it to the actor - she sure can sneer from atop her high horse very well.

So Julian's career is in danger, his wife is being a shit and has left him in a snit and managed to convince him that it's all his fault, and his girlfriend is pulling away from him too.

Julian has a meeting with the review board over a stunt he pulled in class that a particularly obnoxious little twit in his class reported him for (I was ready to smack the smug little bastard within the first 5 minutes of the movie), and Julian manages to escape with a verbal warning. So now that this particular weight is lifted, he looks like he's ready to tackle the next challenge.

Julian is in class, giving the day's lecture, and Elena has shown up, for once, when there's a knock at the classroom door. Julian opens it to find Chalice standing there, practically glowing with self-righteous anger. Here's the next bonehead move. Julian doesn't excuse himself from class and step outside, closing the door, guiding his pissed off wife away from his classroom. No, he stands there in the open doorway while she throws a fit.

And boy does she throw a fit. I was appalled. She barges into the classroom and starts shouting all the details of their current situation in the most graphic terms she can think of. She accuses Julian of fucking his student Elena in front of everyone (which he, again, doesn't deny, he just keeps asking if they can talk about it elsewhere), of Elena being the slut that Julian brings into their marriage so they can both fuck her, and of the two of them lying to her and doing this whole thing as a joke on her. Then she storms out, after having ruined, not just Julian's chance at tenure, but possibly his job at this institution, his entire career, and maybe even his freedom if the little shit who reported him for the last infraction tattles to the school newspaper again, this time about the Prof boffing the co-ed (keep in mind that they're all very close in age - this is university, not high school).

Julian and Chalice both wind up back at their apartment at the same time again, where Julian finally tells her that he never slept with Elena, that it was just one kiss, that he loves Chalice, that he's sorry, and nothing he can say makes Chalice feel better. She dismisses everything he says with more of her perfect pouty little sneers and storms out again.

Chalice goes to see Elena, but for some reason, this woman who she's only known for a few days (weeks?), who she has just accused of conspiring with her husband to have an affair behind her back and to rub it in her face by talking her into a threesome, Elena does not get the hellfire and damnation side of her anger. Chalice goes and calmly asks her to explain.

So Elena does, and Chalice believes her. Oh-their-fucking-god I wanted to wring Chalice's neck!

The next morning, Julian arrives at Elena's place looking like shit and asking if Chalice was there. Elena says yes and invites him in. He cries at Elena's kitchen table about how sorry he is for getting her involved in this mess and how it's all his fault. Elena does not admit to fucking Chalice behind his back. But Chalice comes in and sneers down at Julian in silence for a moment while Julian sits there looking like a puppy who has been whipped by his favorite master. Eventually Chalice suggests that all three of them go for a walk together and they'll talk it out when they get to the park. Her sneer slips and she looks patronizingly down at him as if deigning to forgive him for his transgressions, while hope floods his face.

Can you tell how much I dislike Chalice at this point?

The movie ends with the three of them walking in the park - Julian holding Chalice's hand, and Elena holding Chalice's other hand.

(End spoilers)

So, I think this deserves to be on a poly-ish movie list for a few reasons. One is that I see a lot of similarities between how these characters got into their mess and how a lot of couples flail around the poly community. Another is that the characters had an emotional connection to their hot bi babe. It may have started out as "just sex", but it became more about feelings and relationships - and Julian and Elena had their own emotional connection to each other before the threesome ever got proposed and Chalice and Elena develop their own emotional connection to each other. And another is that, although this was billed as "a cautionary tale", I believe that it was left open for interpretation, and my interpretation of the movie was that of a more honest and open future for our characters.

These movies are so difficult to explain why I think they're poly without giving away the ending. If you choose not to listen to the spoilers because you want to watch the movie and be surprised, know that I do have some movies on my poly-ish movie list that do not end happily-poly-ever-after, but they are on the list because they show polyamory of a sort in a positive, or at least honest, light. This was one of those movies that I flip-flopped on whether or not I thought it was poly. But after watching the whole thing, I do believe that there are definitely some poly elements in this film, and it might be cautionary in the sense that things can go horribly wrong, but I did not get the sense that this movie was yet another anti-poly-moralizing tale. You could argue that some of the things the characters did are classic examples of What Not To Do, but that the moral of the story did not appear to be "non-monogamy is doomed to fail no matter what and here, watch this train wreck to see why".

So, bottom line - I'm keeping this on the list of poly-ish movies and I enjoyed watching it. But be prepared to yell at the characters when they do things that we all know are foolish and hurtful.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 29 - Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

posted Oct 17, 2017, 2:44 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Oct 17, 2017, 2:48 PM ]

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women (2017) - Internet Movie Data Base - Official Website - Fandango Movie Tickets

This movie has so much to discuss! First, let's get the obvious out of the way - this is definitely a poly movie. The plot does not shy away from the idea that all 3 characters were intimately, romantically, and sexually involved with each other. I also thought it was a beautiful movie, both in production value and in poly values.

How historically accurate was it? Well, I am a movie reviewer, not a historian, and I don't read comic books myself, although I have since fallen in love with the comic-action movie genre and most of the people I care about are comic geeks. So I did not do a whole lot of research into the historicity of this story.

I have long heard, however, about Marston's poly-like arrangement with the two women who inspired his creation of Wonder Woman, his feminist, or should I say, misandrist, ideals, and his blatant interest in kink. So, at least that part wasn't a surprise to me, and was the reason why I was so interested in seeing this movie in time for this month's review so that my review could hopefully inspire theater attendance.

So, my knowledge of the historicity of this movie is superficial. I'm pretty sure, though, that the movie got the grand themes correct, but took some creative license with the details. For instance, in the movie, Marston pitches the Wonder Woman comic to publisher Max Gaines, who "discovered" Superman. We see them as strangers, meeting for the first time when Marston makes an appointment to pitch his idea, and Gaines being dubious at first, and then won over by Marston's impassioned plea. Marston makes this appointment after coming up with the idea of a feminist superhero that his partners, Elizabeth and Olive, both believe will fail. Neither have any faith in comics as an art form or culture-changing medium, and Marston had shown no interest in comics before this scene.

In reality, however, Marston did an interview with the magazine Family Circle in 1940 (conducted by his own partner, Olive) where he discussed what he saw as the unfulfilled potential of the comic book medium. Gaines saw this interview and hired Marston as a consultant for the two companies that Gaines owned, which would eventually merge into DC Comics. Sometime around this point, Marston had the idea to create a new superhero, but it was his wife, Elizabeth, who suggested making her a woman. He then pitched the story to Gaines, now his "employer", who gave him the green light to create the comic and it was first debuted in December of 1941.

What does seem to be true is Marston's feminist ideals and his deliberate use of the Wonder Woman comic as a vehicle to infuse those ideals into children to create a more feminist, more peaceful future for his society. He has been quoted in interviews and writings as believing that women are the more peaceful, loving gender, and that boys needed to learn how to "submit to a loving authority" and so hoped to teach them to desire this submission through the Wonder Woman comic, featuring a pacifist, strong superheroine. He also admitted to including kink and erotica in his work because he believed that the submission must come willingly, and that submission "cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element."

In other words, he believed strongly in consent and used erotic imagery to "train" young boys to want to give consent to submitting to women leaders. He actually called it "sex love training". Through his Wonder Woman comics, he aimed to condition readers to becoming more readily accepting of loving submission to loving authorities rather than being so assertive with their own destructive egos.

Given that this was the 1920s through the 1940s, I'm willing to overlook the misandrist gender binary essentialism of believing that men and women are essentially two opposing or complimentary monoliths and that women are the superior category because I *do* agree with his assessment that the ideals that women are trained to embody - compassion, empathy, cooperation, peace-loving, nurturing, etc. - are better for society and that those who do embody those ideals are the ones who would make better leaders, while the ideals of masculinity that men are programmed with - violence, anger, aggression, pride, competition, etc. - make for poor leadership qualities in a fair and democratic egalitarian society.

So, while I inwardly cringe just a little bit every time I hear him make a sweeping generalization about women being "better" than men, from my lofty vantage point of the year 2017, I do applaud his emphatic embrace of those characteristics that he identifies as "feminine" as the more noble characteristics for society's leaders.

Now, onto the cinematic elements of the film.

I thought it was beautifully shot. The movie was told slightly out of sequence, through flashbacks during an interrogation by a conservative social leader about the erotic and kinky elements of the comic. As Marston was forced to explain and defend himself, we are brought back in time to the creation and formation of his poly family.

The lighting and cinematography of the film was ... well, subtle isn't the word for it because it's fairly obvious but it wasn't jarring either. It felt ... smooth and seamless while noticeable. The interrogation is all shot in a very cold, monochrome color palette, while the flashback, loving triad scenes are in a very warm, almost nostalgic color palette. The happy scenes are warm and soft and mostly high key lighting, which is a bright, evenly lit lighting pattern found in sitcoms and romantic comedies and in older movies because early film material couldn't handle a lot of contrast.

The dramatic flashback scenes - both the conflicts or those simply serious in tone and the more instrumental, erotic turning point scenes - use low key lighting within that warm, vintage color palette, adding strong shadows to highlight certain parts of the scene and making liberal use of silhouette as a dramatic storytelling device.

What I especially liked about this was that the low-key lighting in both the warm color palette for the instrumental scenes and the cool color palette in the interrogation scenes, combined with a wonderful Art Deco sense of costuming and set design, made those scenes feel like live-action comic book art. They were contrasty and blocky, with soft, vague backgrounds and strong, hard lines in the foreground with our characters, just like the Golden Age of comics in which Wonder Woman was born. The more important it is for the scene to imply to the audience that it was influential on the future development of the comic book, the more comic booky the scene looked with shadows and silhouettes and blocky set elements.

But, what about the poly stuff? That's why y'all listen to this podcast in the first place, right? I mean, we can study cinematography in a number of different venues, but this podcast is all about polyamory in film. So, let's talk polyamory in this film.

The modern poly movement is largely considered to be a feminist movement. Most of its more vocal "leaders" are women and nonbinary people, with only a handful of cismale names attached to the shaping of our communities and our philosophies. One of our most common talking points is the response to the concern about "misogyny" and "patriarchy" so common in religious polygynous cults, which is that polyamory is what results when you give women the freedom to love who we will, without sexual shame or patriarchal power constricting our behaviour or our emotions. When women find a community that embraces our sexuality and our relationship freedom, we choose multiple partnerships of our own. Many of us came to polyamory by ourselves, as "single" women, not coerced into it by a male partner hoping to find a harem. In fact, when men *do* attempt to form harems through the poly community, they often find it backfiring on them, as the women discover themselves and their power through the love of other people and the supportive network that polyamory provides that other forms of non-monogamy do not embrace.

I felt this fact of the polyamory experience was paralleled in the movie itself. The movie title, even, only names the man and implies the women, but throughout the movie, it is the women who drive the relationship. I feel that this is the experience of many women in the poly community - overlooked and dismissed by society as being accessories to the men's fantasy but in reality being the driving force in their own relationships. Bill Marston, as the person with the most social power, gives the women the space to decide their fate, and make decisions they do.

First, it is Elizabeth who gives Bill the green light for an extramarital affair. Then it is Elizabeth who puts a stop to it, before it even begins. Then it is Olive who makes the first overtures, but she makes them to Elizabeth, denying Bill. Then Elizabeth puts the brakes on again. Later, after Bill guides Elizabeth to a better understanding of herself, it is Elizabeth who reaches out to mend fences with Olive. Then Olive again opens the door to a romantic relationship, again with Elizabeth. And it is *Elizabeth* who finally invites Bill in.

Each step in their relationship, from escalation to setback, is instigated by one of the women. Bill is there, holding space for them, making clear his own desires and intentions, but the women are driving the show. And it is the story between the women that creates all the conflict and resolution. The character of Bill embodies his ideal of "loving submission to a loving authority" - a choice of his own free will to submit himself to the lead of the women in his life. But he's not passive and he's not a doormat. He holds the women accountable when they fuck up. But he doesn't "rescue" them. He actually holds them accountable, making them acknowledge their part and be active participants in their own "rescue", or the resolution to the problem.

Elizabeth, I absolutely loved. I couldn't help whispering throughout the movie "she is SO BAD at this!" When my partner, Ben, asked me to elaborate - bad at what? Polyamory? - I said "no, at being human!" She was terrible at empathy and at communicating with any delicacy for other people's feelings. She was blunt and awkward and she had a tendency to hide from her feelings under this cold and logical, scientific facade. She cussed all the time and she resented men in general for holding her back from what she believed was her true potential. She was wicked smart and assertive and she knew herself, but she was also private and reserved and did not like other people butting into her business.

As you may have guessed, I identified very strongly with the character of Elizabeth.

Olive was sweet and genuine and caring. At first glance, this seemed to be a classic Unicorn Hunter setup, with the older, more established couple, the husband not really having much of a personality at all but still somehow being charismatic and charming while the wife was dominant and overbearing, courting a young, naive, star-struck girl who hoped to learn from them and who they hoped to mold in their image. But Olive has more of a sense of self than our typical Unicorn Hunters like to see in their fantasy prey. Olive is the one who pursued them, she wasn't hunted.

While she had less social power than they (and, really, don't get me started on the ethics of professors dating their students), she had what I like to describe as velvet-covered steel - a core strength inside of her, underneath the softness. She is what I would call an archetypal submissive - one who willingly submits to another because she has the will to do so; she knows what she wants, she takes an active role in crafting her relationships, she advocates for her own needs and doesn't let herself be taken advantage of, but she just happens to find happiness in domesticity and restraint and submission and in pleasing her lovers.

Here is where I have one quibble. It's really very minor in the scope of the entire movie, but it's something that I see repeatedly in the community and it's a sticking point for me. [inserted movie clip about two combining to make the perfect woman]

E. "What is it that attracts you to her?"
B. "She is beautiful, guilless kind, pure of heart. And you are brilliant, ferocious, hilarious, and a grade-A bitch. Together you are the perfect woman."

Again, this is nearly a century ago, but it still bothers me every time I hear it. While two people can have complimentary traits such as one being assertive and one being gentle and nurturing, they do not combine to make a single person. They are whole and complete people all by themselves. Elizabeth, with her fierce brilliance, is not half of a woman because she does not have Olive's beauty and kindness. She is a fully fledged human being. Her shortcomings may be complimented by Olive's strengths, and vice versa, but neither woman is a partial person.

I heard Bill's description of Elizabeth, and I actually formed tears because, when I heard it, I felt a longing to hear that same description applied to me. And I have. Of the people who have loved me who have really *seen* me, this is how I have been described and how I *want* to be described by them. This is how I see myself, and, like most of us, I desire to see myself reflected in the eyes of those who love me.

So I felt personally affected when I heard that description. To then immediately follow that up with "together you make the perfect woman", I felt like the wind had been let out of my sails. I felt desired and proud when I imagined a partner describing me as such, as though they really *got* me, much like Elizabeth's expression implied that she felt when Bill described her, so when Bill next implied that both women were necessary to make "the perfect woman", I felt ... punctured, discarded, as though all those qualities that I am so proud of are not "enough" to be accepted by someone I love.

And I know that a lot of people feel that way when described as "together, you make the perfect partner". I know that even more people feel that way when they are monogamous and they struggle to understand why their partner desires another. "Why aren't I enough?" That's a common, plaintive question among monogamous partners. Why am I not enough for you? When we view people as incomplete, as puzzle pieces that need the presence of others to make ourselves whole, lacking a certain quality or qualities can trigger exactly that insecurity because we are, indeed, seen as "not whole".

When monogamous people see themselves as half of a whole, to be completed by their monogamous partner, and their partner desires another, they can feel as though they aren't even "enough" to fill up their half. If, given the monogamous assumption of "completing" each other, their partner doesn't feel "complete" with just them, then they must not be "enough", because if they were "enough", then their partner would feel "complete".

If we want to help our more monogamously minded partners, and our monogamously minded society, better understand why we love multiple people, we need to reach a point of understanding that we *are* whole and complete people, that we are not combined with others to become "perfect", implying that we are imperfect on our own. Elizabeth is complete and wonderful in her ferocity, in her hilarity, in her bitchiness. Olive is complete and wonderful in her guilelessness, in her kindness. Together, they make up two wonderful, complete, and complimentary people in a family that balances each other out - each supporting and relieving the other in a cooperative, interdependent web of relationships. Together, they are both "enough" because it's not about being "enough". It's not about "completing" each other. It's about each of us bringing our own unique combination of selves to the table and adding richness and complexity to the tapestry of our relationships.

Another notable part of the film that I want to highlight is the issue of the closet. Given the era, the triad's choice to commit themselves to a lie to protect their children is absolutely understandable. I do not support the idea of the closet at all, but I am also in a privileged position to hold this opinion. I have the freedom to have made choices to remove the power of the closet from my life.

But I have also supported deception in other movies in the context of the era or culture that the characters live in. This, of course, reinforces couple privilege, which we see in this movie how it disempowers the one without the privilege. It's all well and good to say that nobody plans to *wield* one's privilege when things are going well. But having it means that we can fall back on it when things are not going well. The closet insures that we have this privilege at our disposal, for some future, indeterminate circumstance that we can't always anticipate when we say that we "won't ever use it".

Throughout the movie, Elizabeth repeatedly displays internalized shame over her unconventional relationship, for all that she champions women's rights and equality for all. Every relationship conflict the triad experiences stems from Elizabeth feeling some form of cognitive dissonance between her ideals and her societally programmed shame. She is not willing to face, head on, the social disapproval for her sexual freedom, in spite of all her talk of "I don't experience sexual jealousy" and other progressive ideas. She is deeply uncomfortable at her first exposure to kink, her feminist philosophy of women's empowerment seeming to conflict with women in a kinky submissive role. We continue to debate this very thing in feminist circles nearly a century later - how can we support women's choice when that woman chooses the status quo or a traditional role that the rest of us are trying to crawl out from under?

When things get difficult, Elizabeth retreats, back to where she feels safe. For all of Olive's gentleness and submissiveness, she is consistently the one to lead the others into more progressive, more challenging situations. Elizabeth is like many white feminist women - aggressive and assertive and confident in her position, but not "too much". When it becomes "too much" for her comfort, she stalls, and retreats into what privilege she does have. In some cases, this means she retreats into the closet, because as part of a socially recognized couple, that closet is one of her privileges.

It's easy to defend the closet as a protective cocoon. If it didn't have any protections at all, nobody would hide in it. But being in the closet has a cost as well. Depending on the individual circumstance, that cost may be more or less than the penalty. It may be worth the expense. But we do need to acknowledge that it *does* cost us.

[inserted movie clip about protecting children vs. passing on shame]

B. "And you will be left all alone with your bitterness and your rage and your knowledge that you loved her and she loved you and you threw it away for them."
E. "Our kids don't deserve to be attacked, to be ostracized."
B. "Our children are inheriting your shame. Is that how you want them to live? Is that the lesson that you want to teach them?"

This scene was so powerful for me. It went on from here, showing us the importance of vulnerability and humility in a relationship. This was a true shift in the balance of power. Always, Olive was loved and accepted, but she was still "the third", without legal protection and without social support. Always, there was a subtle, invisible, but existing Sword of Damocles over her head, where couple privilege could step in at any time. The triad was happy and functional, but here, in the very foundation, was an unequal distribution of power. Until this moment, when Elizabeth was forced to confront herself and her insecurities and how she used the closet to protect herself to the detriment of her "third". The only way to undo the damage to herself, her husband, her lover, and her children, was to let down her walls, stop using the closet as a weapon and a shield, and to be vulnerable to Olive, thereby shifting the power balance to a truly equal relationship where she could not hide behind couple privilege or use it as a weapon when she gets scared.

This is a very subtle underpinning of poly relationships. So subtle that most people, particularly those who are new to polyamory, can't see it. As I said, for the entire movie up to this point, Olive is a loved and accepted part of the family. It's really difficult to see that her position of "equal member" is an illusion because of that couple privilege, until she loses her position at the whim of the wife. There is never a point at which she can consider not bowing to the wife's position. There is never a suggestion that Elizabeth be the one to leave whenever there is a conflict.

And a lot of couples who open up their relationships will see this as right and just and fair and expected. And that's exactly the problem. This scene shows us why that's a problem. Their family, indeed each individual person, is diminished by being built on a foundation of couple privilege. Things don't work until they dismantle their positions of privilege, become vulnerable, and empower the disempowered. Only then is the family "complete". Only then is lasting happiness found. Only then does the relationship work. Even though it appeared to work for years before, that appearance was superficial, an illusion, wrested away at the first sign of real conflict. It took this power exchange to finally make the relationship between the three of them solid enough to last "all the days of their lives".

And I so wish more "couples" would learn that lesson before "opening up" and hurting their "thirds" simply because they can't see their privilege from the inside.

I loved this movie. I thought it felt real. I loved the focus on the women, in spite of the title.

These are the takeaways that I felt from the film: couple privilege is real; if you break your lover's heart by making them end a relationship that they desire you will do damage to your relationship with your lover; vulnerability is the path to intimacy and necessary for an equal distribution of power; and life rewards those who take the path of greater courage, where the rewards are a happy and healthy family and courage is being vulnerable and humble and honest.

And when we embark on a journey of truth and justice tempered with compassion, empathy, nurturing, and love, there is a little bit of Wonder Woman inside all of us.

[inserted unscripted conversation with Alan M and Nicole about seeing the movie in theaters on opening night]

Some references from the conversation:

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 28 - The Story of O

posted Sep 15, 2017, 2:12 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

The Story of O (1975) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

I think the big problem I have with stories like the Sleeping Beauty saga and Story of O is because they never establish the main character's personal interest in BDSM. In many of these stories, she's a timid, passive sort of girl, with an air of innocence that suggests that she knows nothing of sex or kink. This means that she can't have chosen it for herself. She goes along with the punishments because she is told to, by someone who has authority over her, or by someone she wishes to please, but not because she has fantasies of being spanked or some desire to give up control to someone else. Stories like these seem to imply that all you have to do is introduce a woman to the submissive role, and she will automatically find the pleasure in the pain, or that the desire to please is inherent and makes the pain pleasurable.

Sometimes there are side characters who knew what they were getting into and went joyfully, and sometimes you even find side characters who are submissive men or sadistic women. But the main character is just some girl who is told to submit, and she does so with no real motivation given other than she's "s'posed to". Maybe she internalized the "love, honor, and obey" bullshit, or maybe she's afraid or overwhelmed at the newness and strangeness of the situation, or maybe she doesn't know how to exert her own wishes, or maybe she doesn't even know her own wishes because she doesn't know herself at all. These stories lead me to believe that this was not her choice, but once there, she magically discovered a taste for submission and pain.

As someone who likes pain and resistance play naturally, I call bullshit. I'd love to see a story of a girl who is inexperienced, maybe she had Abstinence Only education and is completely unaware of any sexual behaviour other than missionary position for procreation, an inexperienced girl who meets a worldly and charismatic man who wins her trust and awakens in her a sexual desire. Gradually, he gets her to relax and experiment and, one day he convinces her to visit a BDSM club with him. Only, instead of walking in and her lover ordering her on her knees to service the other patrons, she gazes in wide-eyed wonder and longing at the tall, statuesque woman in head-to-foot leather, impatiently tapping a riding crop against her thigh while her male subbie grovels at her feet.  

When the lover introduces our protagonist to the local Florentine expert, she inquires not how the whips feel, but how he spins them. Instead of blushing prettily and baring her breasts to be bound, she surprises herself by suggesting, in a halting voice, that the rope master try a particular weaving pattern that she learned at summer camp when they made little plastic bracelets and keychains, on a rather fetching older lady who is bouncing eagerly, awaiting her turn at the hands of the rope master. And then the lover hands our budding young kinkster over to be trained, not as his slave, but as his master because it is HE who craves the whip and the rope and the desire to please.

I'd like to see* some girl be introduced to kink in a story and have her gravitate towards the top or Dominant positions, or even as a bottom but not a sub.  I'd like to see a girl in a submissive position in fiction negotiate her own boundaries with a top, to show that she wants the role she is about to be put in.  And I'd LOVE to see a fucking dom actually care about what the subbie wants, and to take the time to discuss and negotiate with them what the subbie wants and how to create the scene for the subbie's benefit. That'd be a nice change. And it might help those poor subbies who get into kink with no experience but a few books read, to understand that THEY are the ones in charge and THEY are the ones who set the rules. Being a sub does not mean being a doormat.

The Story Of O seems to be about as poly as The Ethical Slut. Which is to say, not at all. Both stories are only tangentially related to poly by way of having lots of sex partners. I do wish people would stop recommending both as poly.

Throughout this movie, the characters kept using the word "love". I do not think it means what they think it means. O is that innocent young girl who gets dropped off at a submissive training house by her boyfriend, Renee, with no explanation and no backstory and is immediately gang-raped. She spends her time there being whipped and raped and ogled and talked about as though she had no hearing and no feelings. After a while she falls in "love" with her master. With no conversation, mind you, nothing that tells each other anything about each other - she only knows how hard he whips and how hard he fucks.

Then her time is up and she goes back to her boyfriend, whom she "loves", and it is the love for him that prompts her to "love" every man she is given to. Eventually, we find out that Renee has a twisted, co-dependent relationship with his much older step-brother, Sir Steffan. They share "everything", she is told, which implies that she is now to be given to Steffan. She is to obey him exactly as she would obey Renee. Although, the only real difference between this order and every other time she was given to someone, is that Steffan is to become her regular master, not a one-time gift to someone Renee deems worthy of bestowing O's charms on.

Over time, O falls in love with Steffan and, I believe, is the only time she actually loves anyone, in a sense that at least resembles the way that I use the word "love". So, it would seem that her relationship with Renee and her growing love for Steffan make this a poly movie, right?

Well, except that her feelings for Renee dwindle at about the same rate that her feelings for Steffan grow. After a while, she stops thinking of herself as belonging to both Renee and Steffan and thinks of herself as belonging only to Steffan. She even tells him, at one point, that she never knew love before she met Steffan, which negates all that "love" she supposedly had for all the men she was given to, her training master, and even Renee.

Soon, O falls in lust with Jacqueline, a model that O photographs for magazines. Steffan lays out the plan for O to seduce Jacqueline & get her into their kinky underground subculture. Everything O does with Jacqueline is scripted by Steffan and done to make Steffan happy, even though it was O who first desired Jacqueline for herself. Finally, O delivers Jacqueline into the tender care of the same training house that she was brought to, and O spends the evening gloating with Steffan over the success of their plan and how much Steffan loves O more than any woman, more than he thought was even possible to love a woman, followed by O puffing up with power over having conquered the man who conquered her. To symbolize their mutual ownership of each other and no other, they bear brands of each other's initials.

Tell me, where is the poly in that? Well, now that I think about it, ownership, couple-privilege, a primary pair-bond, confusing sex for love, and using a hot bi babe for their own selfish desires without concern for the emotional torment she goes through DOES sound like the unicorn hunters that plague the poly community. So, I guess if I wanted to be snarky, I could call it a poly movie for that reason.

I wouldn't say this is a bad movie. To be honest, the fantasy submissive story that doesn't take into account things like periods and moods or how unhygienic it is for everyone to sit bare-assed on leather couches, and that doesn't give us a clear personal motivation of the submissive isn't my cuppa tea. So the movie could be a really good example of a fantasy submissive story and I wouldn't get it. So don't decide to see or not see this movie based on my own total lack of enjoyment of it. Just don't watch it as an example of polyamory. It's not. It's BDSM, it's erotica, it has plenty of female nudity, and it's non-monogamous. But it's not poly.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

*Exit To Eden is an exception to this, although it's clearer in the book. The main characters *did* seek out the training houses on their own: the female character, after thorough training as a submissive, eventually became one of the most famous and cruel dominants, and the male character was forced to give up his ego and bravado to accept the submissive side of himself that he kept denying. Whatever else you say about Exit To Eden (and there is plenty negative to say about it, particularly the movie version), the story did not fall into the stereotypes of the girls-are-all-subbies-men-are-all-masters or the girls-just-need-to-be-exposed-to-pain-to-awaken-natural-desire-for-it tripe.

The best movie out there that shows a female submissive actively choosing her role is The Secretary, which has absolutely no polyamory whatsoever, so I won't be reviewing it. But the whole story is about the submissive finding herself and choosing her role, and it's a mainstream movie with big name actors, not a porn, so you should be able to find it readily.

As for books, my favorite books that include a young, innocent woman who does not yet know that she is submissive, and her worldly male lover who sees the submissive buried inside of her and who takes it upon himself to train her into what she truly wants to be but does not yet know, who values consent and who also *does* know her better than she knows herself, is the Training of Eileen series by William Vitelli, which you can find on Amazon. But, as they're books and not movies (and also not polyamorous), I won't be reviewing these either. I just wanted to let y'all know that I am aware of some exceptions to my complaint and to give y'all some titles if this is something you're interested in.

Episode 27 - Amelia

posted Aug 19, 2017, 4:27 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 6:26 PM ]

Amelia (2009) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

First of all, I'm going to give spoilers. This movie is based on a real person and historically important events, so I don't feel any need to protect people from spoilers. If you are from the US and haven't heard what happens to Amelia Earhart by now, you're probably too young to be listening to this podcast or not aware of this podcast in the first place.  We don't watch biopics to be surprised by the ending, we watch them to find out how this particular storyteller tells the story.

I remember a few years ago when Amelia's letter to her husband about the nature of their marriage made the rounds in the poly community. I really resonated with it because it was not so much a statement of polyamory, but a statement of independence and female empowerment. This movie used several of her letters, this one included, as actual lines in the movie. So, without really doing any independent research into her life, this movie seemed to ring true - at least as true as any Hollywood film can be.

So anyway, I started out watching this movie knowing ahead of time that she had an open marriage and that she is on everyone's poly-celebrities list. And, of course, I am also aware of the only way this movie can end, what with her rather legendary demise and all. So I tried really hard not to get my hopes up out of fear that they would be dashed on the rocks, only to constantly remind myself not to be so cynical at every scene where there wasn't a happy poly family on screen.

It actually took a while to get into the poly stuff, but, conversely, because we had to cover so many years in a 2-hour film, I felt like her relationship with her husband was rushed. I didn't feel properly prepared for their first kiss - it seemed to come out of the blue to me. But when it came to part where he asked her to marry him, she wrote him her famous letter while he slept and then read it to him when he woke.

For those who have never read this letter, it goes like this:

Dear GPP

There are some things which should be writ before we are married -- things we have talked over before -- most of them.
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feelings that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but to have no heart to look ahead.

On our life together, I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or increasing) in anyone else.

Please let us not interfere with the others' work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinement of even an attractive cage.

I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.

I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.


So I can completely see why she has been embraced by the poly community. She isn't just practical about future attractions to other people, but she's also feminist and independent. She is concerned that her marriage will interfere with her career and she wants to keep her own place for when she needs time for herself. And I think the sentiments in this letter were well portrayed in the movie, not just because she said them as lines of dialog.

But then it took a while before anyone else came into the picture. So I started thinking that this wasn't so much a story about polyamory, but about Open Marriage in the original sense that the coiners of the phrase intended. Open Marriage, according to the book of the same name, was much less about extramarital affairs and much more about being authentic and honest within one's marriage - being open with each other to share their innermost thoughts and to be themselves without fear. They were very much for the concept of independence within a partnership, not losing one's identity to the couple. I'm not sure if that's where the term "interdependence" came from, but that's the general idea. So I thought to myself "well, OK, that's not exactly poly, but poly overlaps with Open Marriage, and many of those traits are integral to polyamory, so I guess this is poly-ish".

But then Amelia meets Gene. Gene was another flier who admired Amelia and ran in similar celebrity circles. In reality, the question of their relationship is controversial, but the movie takes a pretty clear stance that they became lovers while Amelia was married to George. So then I started to think, "OK, this is still an Open Marriage in the original sense, but now it just happens to include that single chapter on extramarital lovers." George notices immediately, in the movie, the attraction between Amelia and Gene, and he seems uncomfortable and resentful about it. But he gives her the freedom to pursue it. Rather reluctantly, it seems. But where things get complicated is that Gene and George have a very civil, friendly even, relationship with each other. Gene even stays at their house for a while, along with his child.

So then I started to think "oh, I guess this is poly - it appears to be a poly vee." But next we see an argument between Amelia and George when Amelia suggests, because of their respective touring schedules, that she remain at home, with Gene, while George go on his trip. [inserted movie clip of this disagreement]  So, that threw me back in the Open Marriage-but-not-poly camp, because, in my opinion, it's not poly if someone is being dragged into it, appearances to the contrary.

But really, George and Gene get along pretty well, and continue to get along for as long as the movie says that relationship lasts. There is no secret, everyone knows what's going on, even the kid. At one point, Gene's son asks Amelia to marry his dad. [inserted movie clip of the son asking Amelia to marry his dad] Amelia just smiles and closes the door. If that isn't poly, I don't know what is.

I think that George is put in a very difficult position. He lives at the turn of the last century when women were not equals and marriage had certain rules, and he has the blessing and the curse of being in love with a woman who thinks she's his equal. With a woman like Amelia, there is no compromise - you have a partnership with an equal or you have nothing. That's tough to handle in previous eras. So I think, given the time involved, this movie really did show a version of polyamory, even if some of the characters had a difficult time accepting it. After all, who among us has ever embraced all that goes along with polyamory without even the slightest bit of difficulty? Some maybe, but not many.

Later, we meet Amelia's navigator on her fateful final flight. They have a conversation where it appears as though he is mangling an attempt to hit on Amelia. The conversation goes something like this:

[inserted movie clip]

Fred: You and your old George, that's a touching love story.
Amelia: An honest one if I say so myself.
Fred: I wonder if it's honest enough for George.
Amelia: If you mean Gene, we're not together anymore, in that way, not for a long time. You don't think I love my husband?
Fred: Actually I do, in a certain way.
Amelia: But you disapprove of how I live.
Fred: Hell no, it's just like me. In fact it's like most guys I know.
Amelia: Meaning?
Fred: Guys love their wives, their girlfriends, doesn't mean they don't take advantage ... of an opportunity.
Amelia: If you have a point, make it.
Fred: I believe I have.
So this conversation clearly shows that, not only was her relationship with Gene common knowledge, but Amelia admits it without hesitation, and that the relationship was not a symptom of any problem with her marriage. Although Amelia was a very private person and tried to keep her personal life out of the limelight, she also appeared to believe strongly in honesty in her relationships, in the lack of possession between partners, and, in fact, in the partnership between partners, not ownership.

Whether Amelia herself really had a relationship with Gene or not, this movie portrayed a strong, independent woman who was a champion of equality and who loved her husband without possession and who expected the same in return. The relationships in the movie were not without their stresses, but they seemed to be open and honest and accepted by all involved. I don't recall any scenes in which Gene tried to "steal" her away from George, and George never once tried to change Amelia into a monogamous, traditional wife. He supported her in her career and in her freedom.

I'm sure the real Amelia was not the iconic vision of feminism that we see in the movie - at least, not all the time. I'm sure she had her issues, and I'm sure George wasn't always the unconditionally loving husband he is portrayed, and if Amelia really did have any lovers, I'm sure they also had their flaws. But for a movie, set in a time period when women just didn't do that, shown to a modern audience that continues to disapprove of non-traditional relationships, I'm actually a little surprised at how flatteringly they told this story. And don't forget, this is ultimately the story of the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and the almost-successful first flight of anyone around the globe. That they spent any time at all on the romance speaks volumes, let alone telling it sympathetically.

I'd call this a poly movie, even though the plot is not really focused on the relationships but the two male leads are fundamental supporters for her in her career. It's about daring adventurer and her passion for flight ... with a little love thrown in.

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Episode 26 - The Wedding Banquet

posted Jul 16, 2017, 12:32 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

The Wedding Banquet (1993) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

The DVD summary says "Successful New Yorker Wai Tung and his partner Simon are blissfully happy, except for one thing: Wai Tung's conservative Taiwanese parents are determined he find a nice girl to marry! To please them and get a tax break he arranges a sham marriage to Wei Wei, a sexy go-getter in need of a green card. But when his family swoops down for the extravaganza, Wai Tung would do well to remember that at a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, sexual repression takes the night off!"

I was actually prepared for this to be a crappy movie. I expected the summary to be like so many others - vaguely written so I could interpret it as suggesting a potential poly story, get me hopeful, but ultimately to let me down with sex-negative values and a cautionary tale against bucking "tradition".

I am so happy to have been wrong.

One of the benefits of polyamory, in my opinion, is that polyamory is a fundamental change of mindset on what makes a "family". Regardless of what form any given poly group takes, or even what any individual thinks "counts" as polyamorous, the underlying requirement for polyamory is to be able to design your own relationships based on the needs and wants of the individuals involved. And I think that's a valuable paradigm shift no matter what relationship structure any given family group ends up as. With polyamory becoming a "movement", that is, a recognized word and concept demanding social acceptance, we are seeing more people designing their own relationships, whether they call it polyamory, or even whether it "counts" as polyamory, or not.

I think that families have always done this, but I think there has been more heartache and more lies to cover it up. The Wedding Banquet illustrates, not only the lies and heartache that goes into forcing a family group to look like it's "supposed" to rather than what it is, but also the changing climate of society where acceptance of alternative family structures makes for more happiness than adhering to "tradition" under the erroneous belief that "tradition" has always been so, therefore it's the best way ever, did.

Wai-Tung Gao is a Chinese immigrant and American citizen living in New York with his boyfriend, Simon. They have a stable, happy relationship and have been together for 5 years. But Wai-Tung's family is very traditional Chinese. Mr. Gao was a commander in the army and has survived a stroke only by the thought of living long enough to see his first grandchild. Mrs. Gao signs Wai-Tung up, without his permission, for every matchmaking service she can find in an effort to get him married, to carry on the family name and honor his family. They are completely unaware that Wai-Tung is gay and that he lives with Simon.

Mr. Gao invested in an apartment building for Wai-Tung to own and manage, and in the loft of that run down building lives Wei-Wei, another Chinese immigrant who is a struggling artist. Because Wei-Wei can't hold down a job and her art is not generating any income, she lives in substandard living conditions by renting the loft, which is not zoned for habitation, at a very low price. The building is a dump, the air conditioning and the water are always broken, and she has to call Wai-Tung all the time to fix things.

Wai-Tung takes pity on Wei-Wei, and lets her slide on the rent sometimes, even though she makes him uncomfortable by flirting with him and expressing envy that Simon has such a handsome boyfriend. Eventually, she loses yet another job, and when Wai-Tung comes over with Simon to install a new air conditioner, she confesses that she will have to move back to China because she has no money and she can't find a "stupid American" to marry her for a green card.

Later, Simon suggests to Wai-Tung that marrying Wei-Wei would solve everybody's problems. Getting married would get Wai-Tung's family off of his back, and Wei-Wei would have a green card and a place to live so that she wouldn't have to go back to China. Wai-Tung is resistant, but Simon convinces him to try it.

So they move Wei-Wei into their basement bedroom until the immigration process is over, and Wai-Tung tells his family that he's getting married. Things seem to be running smoothly, until Wai-Tung's parents announce that they're coming to America for the wedding. Naturally, everyone freaks out, but Simon takes it upon himself to coach Wei-Wei about the things a wife should know about her future-husband, and Simon and Wei-Wei switch bedrooms.

The parents arrive, and Wai-Tung goes through the charade, looking very uncomfortable every step of the way, but Simon watches over him a bit bemusedly. Simon never once exhibits any sort of jealousy or resentment, even when praise for Simon's meal all goes to Wei-Wei because part of the scheme is to convince his parents that she is a worthy wife, including being a good cook.

Now, a gay couple who needs a woman as part of the household is a pretty good place to start changing the social climate about what constitutes a family. I don't know that *I* would necessarily call it "poly", if it's only the two men who have a romantic relationship, but two men and a woman who share a dwelling and raise children certainly qualifies as "family" in my book. Especially when all parties are there with the blessing and welcome of everyone else. We can quibble about the fine print of whether it's poly or not, but I don't think it really matters in the long run. If a family of that arrangement wants to call itself poly, I see no benefit in arguing the point, and plenty of sex-centric and sex-negative harm in insisting on arguing the point.

The question comes in when this family is arranged for the purpose of hiding the true arrangement from other people, namely, the parents. Because of my opposition to the way marriage is handled in this country, I actually have no issues whatsoever with a couple marrying for the legal benefits that marriage offers, such as a green card. I know it's technically fraudulent, but since I have a problem with the whole foundation of a government tying legal benefits to emotional entanglements, I see no *moral* problem with this situation. So, that leaves us with the parents.

If it weren't for the parents, and the green card, the threesome would remain a twosome, and that's where the discussion of "is this poly?" comes in. That's what makes this situation more complicated than the hypothetical gay-couple-and-woman-form-a-family that I posed above. This arrangement is being done for the benefit of people who are not part of the relationship.

So, for about 2/3 of the movie, I was composing in my head the review for this movie with this in mind, leaning towards "not poly" but still a good movie - especially for those interested in LGBT issues. But then I changed my mind. I've decided this is, at the very least, poly-ISH, but in order to explain it, I will have to give away some spoilers.


It was Simon's idea for Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei to get married and, although he is against lying in the first place, because he loves Wai-Tung, once he has committed to the charade, he never wavers on that score. He never accuses Wai-Tung of turning on him, of switching teams, or of leaving him. He never accuses Wei-Wei of moving in on his turf, of trying to steal Wai-Tung, or of being a homewrecker. He embraces Wei-Wei as part of the family and does his best to smooth things along.

Wai-Tung's parents insist, as part of their family honor, on throwing a huge wedding banquet after Wai-Tung "shames" them with a quickie City Hall wedding. The fraud starts to weigh heavily on the bride and groom as they are forced to go through tradition after tradition, meant to cement the marriage and instill the pressure of honor and family on the couple. But Simon goes through it all, supporting the couple and keeping the peace. As the best man, he gets to remain by Wai-Tung's side, but never as the jealous secret, always as the supportive partner whose lover is in a difficult position.

His apparent enthusiasm for the wedding festivities is how I imagine any poly OSO would act when his partner marries another. It's how I imagine Franklin would have behaved if I had married my metamour Maxine for the health benefits - a business arrangement between trusted friends that he would celebrate and support. Even through the enforced kissing of the bride and groom, and the regular reminders of the hetero marriage while being completely ignored and left out by the entire wedding party who are unaware of his relationship to the groom, Simon faces the whole ordeal with good humor and compassion.

Wei-Wei has a crush on Wai-Tung from the beginning. As the farce continues, she is reminded over and over again how serious and important marriage is, and she seems to be having doubts. But as the banquet drags on, and the alcohol flows, she appears to leave behind the tension of her secret and falls into the role of the happy bride.

Eventually, the end of the reception draws near as wedding guests are passed out on the hotel ballroom floor and the bride and groom are obviously drunk and exhausted. The "happy" couple withdraws to their complimentary newlywed suite upstairs while Simon takes the groom's parents home. As Wai-Tung collapses on the bed, room service knocks on the door.

But it's not room service.

Too late to stop at Wai-Tung's command, Wei-Wei opens the door to yet another Chinese wedding tradition - the Newlywed Invasion. The peer group of the bride and groom invade the couple's room on their wedding night to drink and play games, both encouraging the consummation of the marriage and interfering with it. They bring card tables and folding chairs, and appear to be settling in for one hell of an all-night-long party. The guests demand that the bride and groom play little games, like blindfolding the groom and making him find maraschino cherries placed on the bride's stomach and chest with his mouth, while she writhes beneath him, tickled by his seeking.

Wai-Tung tries to get his guests to leave, and they finally agree to leave after one more game. The bride and groom are to get under the covers and take off all their clothes. The guests will not leave until every single article of clothing has hit the floor. So the couple complies, and the guests leave. Finally, Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei are left alone, naked, in bed together.

Wai-Tung starts to fall asleep, but Wei-Wei has other plans. In an alcohol-induced fugue, she seduces Wai-Tung and we are led to believe that they have sex.

After the wedding, Wai-Tung, Wei-Wei, and Simon go back to their pretend family while Wai-Tung's parents hang around for a couple of weeks. They end up staying much longer than planned because Mr. Gao's blood pressure is too high to risk flying. So now things start to get a little tense. Simon, although he still supports the sham that was his idea and still does not resent Wei-Wei, is nevertheless getting irritable at not being allowed to sleep next to his partner, and at having their sex life curtailed. Wei-Wei is getting cranky because she is required to sleep every night next to a man she has a crush on, knowing that he would rather be in someone else's bed. Wai-Tung is stressed out because his parents are still there, he is married to someone he didn't want to be married to, Simon is continuing his social life without him, and he has to constantly soothe everyone else's hurt feelings.

A couple more weeks later, we learn that Wei-Wei is pregnant from her wedding night. Simon throws a fit, but not because Wai-Tung had sex with Wei-Wei - Wai-Tung had already confessed to getting drunk and things getting "a little out of hand". No, Simon is pissed because Wai-Tung did not have *safe* sex, and now their family can't go back to normal after the parents leave, as was the plan. Simon decides that he is leaving when the parents do and Wei-Wei decides to have an abortion, since the marriage was never supposed to last anyway, so it's not fair to have a child in that situation - after all, once she has been granted citizenship, she will be free to divorce and marry again for love.

Then Mr. Gao has another stroke, and after watching his life fall apart around him, Wai-Tung finally confesses everything to his mother. She is devastated, she doesn't understand what she did wrong to get a gay son, and she insists that the father never be told.

One day, Simon is out walking with Mr. Gao. Simon regularly walks with and cares for him since his stroke. Mr. Gao says, in English, "happy birthday Simon" and hands him a red envelope. Simon, surprised, says "you speak English?" Mr. Gao has hidden this fact even from his son, who has had conversations and arguments in English around his parents, believing that they could not understand what was being said.

Simon opens the envelope and discovers a thick wad of U.S. bills. Suddenly, it dawns on Simon that red is the Chinese color for marriage, and that Mr. Gao gave this exact same gift to Wei-Wei when he arrived, as the traditional wedding present. [inserted video clip of the conversation between Simon and Mr. Gao].

The next day, Wei-Wei and Wai-Tung leave for the abortion clinic, and Mrs. Gao, suspecting what they're about to do, tries to stop them, or at least tries to go with them to make sure they are really only "going shopping". But the couple leaves without her. On the way to the clinic, Wei-Wei has a change of heart. She tells Wai-Tung that she wants to keep the baby, and if Wai-Tung wants to help, he can find her an apartment with no rent, but if he doesn't want to help, then to just stay out of her way.

Wai-Tung, upon hearing that he is about to be a father, decides that he will be a part of his child's life. But first, he should ask Simon how he feels. Wei-Wei agrees that they ought to talk to Simon.

Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei come home, and Simon approaches them, his face full of concern, and asks if everything went OK and how does Wei-Wei feel? [inserted move clip where Simon is asked to be one of the fathers of the baby].

And THAT'S where this movie became a poly movie for me.

Simon looks at them incredulously for a moment, then a tentative smile appears as he realizes what they're asking. The three embrace in a group hug. It became a poly movie here because it was no longer a business arrangement, and it wasn't even really a Vee anymore, in spite of who is having sex with whom. Even if, sexually, the arrangement is still two gay men and a single mother, the inclusion of Simon as a parental participant made this, to me, a poly family. It wasn't a gay couple and a single mother, and it wasn't a gay man with his lover, and his baby-mama as two arms in a Vee. It was a family of three parents. And that made it poly in my eyes.

Finally, the parents leave and the movie ends with the three main characters in a group hug, watching the parents go, with Wai-Tung in the middle.

Even though this movie ended happily with a baby on the way, I do not believe that it falls under the RBAMP fallacy (Relationship Broken Add More People). The group relationship was not hopelessly flawed and only "saved" by the addition of a baby. The group relationship actually worked just fine. At first, it was little more than a business arrangement, but the characters grew closer together as they lived together. The conflict came from outside, from the parents, who represented all of society and the social disapproval of alternative relationships. Once there was honest communication, and once the family was able to stand on its own and the parents left, things worked out just fine.

This movie touched me because I could relate to each of the characters, at different times in my life. I remember when I was too afraid to tell my parents about being poly. I know how stressful it is to not be acknowledged by my partner because he's afraid to tell his family about me. I also know, even though I disapprove of the lie, how to feel support and compassion for my partner and to aid him in the deception, for his sake. And, I know how it feels to have a crush on someone who doesn't return my feelings, and to be so poor and so out of options, that a business marriage seems like a perfectly reasonable solution.

This is yet another one of those fuzzy-border poly-ish situations. I enjoyed the movie, and I recommend watching it.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 25 - A Woman Is A Woman

posted Jun 17, 2017, 12:02 AM by Joreth InnKeeper

A Woman Is A Woman (1961) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

What do you get when you take two people who don't like each other, who want totally different things out of a relationship, who are pigheaded and argumentative, and throw them together in a movie with odd music cues that stop abruptly whenever there is dialog, and random breaking of the 4th wall?

It's a trick question because you already know that you get this movie.

What an odd, odd film. Maybe it was the era, or maybe it was the culture, but I totally didn't get this movie.

Made in 1961 in France, the summary says "Striptease artist Angela is desperate to have a child, but her boyfriend, Emile, isn't as anxious. Although he cares for Angela and wants to keep their relationship going, he is not ready for that kind of responsibility. Instead, he suggests that she get together with his buddy Alfred -- a proposal Angela ultimately accepts, to Emile's shock and dismay."

It was the "shock and dismay" that gave me such low expectations of this movie. It's hard to be confused and feeling like I've just wasted 2 hours when I went into the movie expecting it to suck. But it managed to exceed my expectations quite spectacularly ... in the worst way.

We meet Angela strolling through France. She runs into a couple of different guys, at least one of whom professes his undying sexual attraction to her. Another, we learn later, is her live-in lover. She is running late. We finally see that she is on her way to a skeezy little dive of a strip club, where she's about to perform. And, by "perform", I mean "sing a song about how gorgeous she is while taking off her sailor dress that involves the music coming to an abrupt halt whenever she has to sing, but starting up again when the verse ends". And it's not just this song, the whole first 20 minutes of the movie are like this, with music that the audience can hear but is not an internal part of the scene, stopping abruptly every time someone has a line. It was so jarring, it was as if the movie was made by a film student who was unable to mix music and dialog together so he just cut the track. Except that later, he does mix them together, so this must have been a deliberate choice.

So she does her little strip tease (if that's what passes for "art" in France, I'm afraid the country is deserving of all the cheap shots the English & Americans take at it), and then gets dressed backstage and goes home, where she putters around the kitchen as if to prepare dinner. But, the way it's done seems to be as if she had a secret life as a stripper and was coming home to a husband who didn't know anything about it. Her neighbor even made the roast they're having for dinner (her neighbor, the prostitute, who owns the only phone in the building).

But it's not a secret life. I'm not sure what kind of life it is, but it's not secret. So now we learn that Angela wants a baby, and when her partner, Emile, comes home, they have the most non-sequitur conversation I've ever heard that eventually results in Angela requesting a baby *tonight* and Emile refusing.  I've heard more sensible conversations between Alice and various insects and flowers than what I heard in this movie.

So Emile instead offers to have his friend, Alfred, father Angela's baby, which is why this got put on a poly movie list in the first place. Angela doesn't believe he's serious, so she takes him up on the offer, but Emile's pride won't let him back down.  So even though he doesn't want Alfred to father her baby, he yells out the window to Alfred and invites him upstairs anyway.

Alfred comes upstairs to an obviously upset Angela and Emile, and after some arguing, he is finally told why he was called upstairs. So he agrees, and he and Angela go into the bathroom, since there is no separate bedroom in their studio apartment.

While they're in the bathroom, Emile rides his bicycle around the dining room table and glares at the door, and Angela and Alfred make halting and awkward conversation in the bathroom. Eventually Alfred leaves without getting any, and he and Emile go out for drinks & to pick up chicks while Angela sits at home and broods.

The two men find a couple of women who seem extremely pissed off to be there, and the guys drag the girls to the strip club where Angela works, only to find Angela already there and hitting on a guy who seems totally uninterested in her. As far as I can tell, Angela and Emile live across the street from the strip club, the bar, the TV store, the newspaper stand, the bookstore, the restaurant, and Alfred, judging by how often they run out to the various locations and how quickly they get from place to place.  Also, there's a couple who have been stapled together at the mouth and pinned to the wall outside Emile's and Angela's apartment building, presumably as a warning from a fascist government with overzealous police as a warning against public kissing.  At least, I assume that's what happened, since they don't move throughout the entire 2 days of the movie, not even to change clothing.

Anyway, Angela randomly gets up in the middle of one of the girl's "dances", shouts "you disgust me" and runs out of the skeezy strip club, while Emile sits at the table with his unwilling date, smokes, and glares at Angela exiting from across the room.

I thought the non-sequitur argument earlier was strange, but I didn't know from strange! Next is Angela and Emile going back and forth between calling each other darling and bastard. The two climb onto their tiny mattress on the floor to go to bed, each one having to say "no, we're not talking" last. Then Angela gets back up, turns on the light, carries it with her to the living room, grabs a book, brings it back to bed, and holds it up accusingly at Emile. She covers the title so that the only word visible is "monster".

So Emile grabs the lamp, drags it into the other room, selects a book, brings it back to bed, and writes on it "go to hell". Then they both jump up, grab an armful of books, and proceed to cover up titles and show books to each other calling each other names and basically telling each other to fuck off.

The next day, Angela is still begging for a baby and Emile is still insulting her. He goes off to work, and Alfred calls Angela and asks her to meet him at a bar. So she does, and she flirts, and Alfred tells her that he loves her, but she doesn't believe him. Then we spend the next 3 minutes watching Angela smoke and give puppy-dog eyes at a photo of Emile on a date with the woman from the night before, while the most horrendous song plays on the jukebox.  I know it's horrendous, because the director made a point of featuring this song with absolutely no dialogue to interrupt the lyrics, which included things like "you've let yourself go" and "I don't know what I ever saw in you" and "you disgust me" and "your curlers are ugly, you need to exercise".  

Eventually, Angela tries to leave, and tells Alfred to wait on the street outside of their building and to watch the window blinds. If she lowers the blinds within 5 minutes, it means she's coming back down to sleep with Alfred, but if she leaves the blinds up, it means that they've made up and Angela is not coming back to Alfred.

He waits.  And waits.  And waits.  And waits.  Another strange thing about France is that it is apparently custom for men to approach a stranger on the street who is smoking, hold out their own cigarettes, and expect the stranger to light their cigarettes for them using his own cigarette.  Because that's what Alfred does for approximately 2,493 passersby.  Or maybe it's just 6.  Either way, it was weird.

Angela and Emile have another one of their non-sequitur arguments on the stairs outside of their apartment where they call each other names, then kiss, then pout, then kiss, then name-call again. Eventually Alfred gives up, and Emile storms out. So Angela goes to Alfred's house with the intention of sleeping with him. Emile comes back home, finds Angela gone, and calls Alfred's house to find her.

He passes along a message to Angela that she understands to mean that Emile is leaving her. So she gets up, gets dressed, and leaves Alfred. Angela comes home, walks around the house, turning on her heel whenever Emile steps in her path, and eventually backs herself into a corner. She finally confesses to sleeping with Alfred, which pisses off Emile (remember, it was his suggestion in the first place). So now, angry at each other and just after Angela's confession, they get undressed and climb into bed together!

The lights go out, and then come back on, and the two go back to the bookshelves. Only this time, Angela holds up a book that says "Even if you don't still love me, I still love you". So Emile thinks about things for a while, then suggests that, if he hurries and fucks her, maybe the baby will be his instead of Alfred's. Angela agrees. They have sex, and when the lights come on again, Emile says "close call!" and laughs.

Angela asks why he's laughing, and he says "Because you are shameless". She replies "Am I not a woman? I am a woman". And that's the end.

What. The. Fuck.

Not poly. Yet another totally dysfunctional unhappy couple who dislike each other, whose pride backs them into a corner, and where infidelity and a baby fixes everything. Bizarre dialogue, strange audio cuts, random addressing of the camera for no apparent reason, and even an odd cameo that has nothing at all to do with the plot (but is from another movie on the various other "poly movie" lists online). Maybe people who are into artistic indie and foreign films will get this movie. I did not.

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Episode 24 - Trois

posted May 15, 2017, 9:16 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 5:42 PM ]

Trois (2000) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

Content Note: This review contains the sardonic use of ableist language & possibly sex-negative sex worker language intending to mock the sorts of writers who use "crazy" as a scapegoat and their poor depiction of mental illness as well as their obviously one-dimensional and low opinion of sex work. I am using the language to describe what the *writers* of these sorts of behaviours think and by using these words, I am intending to show my disapproval and contempt for this viewpoint in my tone. I apologize if my intention does not come across or if readers are unable to read or listen because of the language.

Is it possible for someone with an American accent to say "ménage à trois" and not sound pretentious? I have yet to hear it.

While adding Poly movies to my queue, Netflix recommends "similar" movies to watch. Most of the ones recommended on the basis of poly movies sound pretty awful, but if there's a chance it's a hidden poly movie, I add it to the queue too. Trois sounded like one of the awful ones, and I wasn't disappointed.

The summary says "Seeking to put excitement into his humdrum sex life, young Atlanta attorney Jermain Davis pressures his reluctant wife, Jasmine, to engage in a ménage à trois with curvaceous bisexual stripper Jade Owens. But the choices made by each of them soon expose deep wounds and come back to haunt them in this steamy indie thriller.

Let me tell you just how bad this movie was. It was so bad, that the movie isn't even over yet and I've already started writing this review.

This was not a poly movie. This was a cautionary tale against non-monogamy, against same-sex desires, and against kink. This was a third-rate Fatal Attraction. In addition to it being completely sex-negative, it was also poorly written.  As per my usual pattern, if the movie sucks and I don't think you should bother, I'm going to spoiler the hell out of it because fuck this movie.

Jasmine is a young wife, married to an up-and-coming lawyer, who has just applied to grad school. She works with battered women and has regular nightmares about her own abusive relationship. Jasmine wants nothing more than to have her husband hold her.

Jermaine wants to have a threesome with his wife, but he insists that he just wants to share something "freaky" with his wife and that it's not about the other woman at all. He tries to explain that it's not about the other woman, that he's just trying to be honest about his sexuality and he thinks his marriage is strong enough to handle anything. Considering it's a movie, I thought that was a pretty good start, in spite of the whole forgetting-the-other-woman-is-a-person-too thing. But then they both make one mistake after another.

Jasmine just won't talk to Jermaine. She won't tell him what her nightmares are about, she won't tell him that she doesn't want sex but that she wants to be held, and she won't tell him how his request makes her feel. She just gets mad at the request.

Eventually, Jasmine talks to her best friend about the threesome idea, and her friend actually convinces her that, not only can threesomes be fun, but that it's Jasmine's duty to her husband. The scene with each spouse talking to their respective best friends about their motivations is like textbook sexism - the dialog is absolutely classic Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus - the guys just want some sex and the women just want to be held. I swear, these writers have never actually TALKED to women.  It's my not-so-secret hypothesis that most people who become script writers do so because they don't have real connections with real people.  So they make up shit based on what they *think* other people do and say and feel, without really knowing anything about real people.  Movies like this are why I suspect that. 

 Later that night, Jasmine wakes up from one of her nightmares about being beat by her ex-boyfriend, but when Jermaine tries to get her to open up and talk to him, Jasmine agrees to the threesome "for her man", mostly to distract him from probing about her secret abusive past.  Jermaine immediately drops the subject of nightmares and why his wife won't confide in him and the next day has his buddy fix him up with a stripper he knows. Yeah, we can see where this is going. Next, we meet the stripper, Jade. Our introduction to her is at a bar, drunk, and her baby-daddy shows up with a subpoena to take her kid away from her. 

The writer went out of their way to set up Jade as a "crazy bitch". So, the not-so-happy couple meets up with the "crazy stripper" and they have a threesome. The next morning, Jasmine wakes up, regretting her night and now harboring fears that she might be gay, or "freaky", because apparently both options are horrible. As Jasmine gets weird about their threesome, Jermaine confides in his buddy that the threesome was great, but the aftermath wasn't so great. In the process of trying to figure out what happened, the buddy ends up sowing suspicion in Jermaine's mind about his wife and Jade. So Jermaine stays out half the night drinking.

Meanwhile, Jasmine is back at home having battered nightmares and wakes up to find herself alone. For some reason, this vanilla, likable, popular woman doesn't call up her family or friends for support. She calls up the stripper from the freaky weekend that made her feel all confused and upset and goes out with her. So when Jermaine finally comes home, he finds an empty house.

The next morning, after calling Jasmine's dozens of friends looking for her, he finally thinks to call Jade as a last-ditch effort and learns that his wife did, indeed, turn to Jade for support, which only cements his suspicions ... of what, I'm not entirely sure - that Jasmine is cheating on her husband with the woman her husband insisted she sleep with?  But Jermaine gets jealous, and when Jasmine finally comes home, he begs her to promise him that nothing happened between Jasmine and Jade and that nothing WILL happen between them.

So, now that things could have been settled, we go back to Jade, who needs a babysitter for her kid because she's about to lose the kid in her custody battle, so she can't go out hitting the bars and leaving her 4-year old son at home alone anymore ... at least until the court hearing is over. So her boyfriend suggests that Jade ask Jasmine to babysit, since Jasmine "seems like a homebody". Jade calls up Jasmine, but Jermaine answers. Instead of being polite and honest, Jade demands to speak to Jasmine, telling Jermaine that it's none of his business why she's calling and that Jasmine is a grown woman who can make up her own mind. Yeah, like that's gonna go over well.

Of course, Jermaine tells Jade to leave them alone or he'll put in a bad word for her with the judge in her custody case. So Jade throws a huge, screaming tantrum, throwing things, and pretty much destroying her own house. Her boyfriend comes out of the bathroom to find out what the problem is, and when he attempts to calm her down, Jade pulls a gun on him, aimed at his dick, and tells him to get out. By now, I'm rooting for the baby-daddy to win the kid in court.

Next we see a series of increasingly aggressive "pranks" being pulled on Jermaine. The Chinese food he orders for a business lunch is actually boxes of worms, his car gets egged and his tires get slashed, stuff like that. One night, Jermaine and Jasmine are taking a romantic bubble bath, and we see a shadow outside of the bathroom window. The next morning, Jermaine finds one of Jade's hairpins in the trampled rose bushes. So Jermaine pulls some strings, and the judge orders the child to be made a ward of the state until either Jade gets a steady job, or the baby-daddy stops travelling (he's a baseball player). Stupidly foolishly, Jermaine is waiting outside the courthouse so that Jade can see him when she comes running and screaming outside, scratching up her face and neck in her grief.

Next, a massive fucking rattlesnake lunges up out of the foot-well of Jermaine's car while he's driving, sending him to the hospital. So Jermaine puts a restraining order on Jade as soon as he's out of the hospital. While he's at home recovering, Jasmine gets a special delivery VHS tape of her husband fucking some girl in Jasmine's own car.

Now, at this point, I was already on my laptop and writing this review, so the couple of clues before this point caught my attention, but I didn't put it together until this now. How would some unknown stripper have gotten into a legal office to place the stupid trite and cliché pseudo-ransom-font threatening letter in Jermaine's inbox during business hours without anyone noticing? How would she have known enough about their business lunch to have set up the whole worm thing? And now, how could this woman, who was only introduced to them the night of their threesome, have gotten a video tape of something illicit that supposedly happened years before*? Hmm, could it be that the writers only gave us a totally "psycho patsy" to throw us off the trail؟

So now Jasmine has had enough and she wants a divorce. But Jermaine begs her not to leave him, and to prove that he knows he was wrong, he'll leave her instead. And go right over to Jade's house to beat her unconscious! Jermaine comes back to beg Jasmine to just stay with him for that night, when lightening flashes, rain comes pouring down, and the fucking lights go out.


They hear a noise in the other room, so Jermaine goes out to investigate. Someone in all black with a black mask jumps him and a fight ensues. Jasmine tries to call the cops, but the phone is dead, so she grabs the gun hidden under the bed (do all writers just have no experience with firearms? Why else do they give people guns with no establishing story for why white collar pacifists would have a gun and make them hide them under the mattress? And revolvers? Really؟).

So Jasmine bursts out of the bedroom with a gun, telling the bad guy to back off (don't pull out a gun as a defense unless you're going to use it!), giving him time to pull of his mask and reveal ... Jasmine's old wife-beater boyfriend ... and Jermaine's "buddy" from work who set the whole threesome thing up in the first place.

Next follows the usual bad-guy exposition where everyone has weapons but no one is using them because the bad guy has to explain why he's doing what he's doing and to take credit for every misdeed in the movie.  He told Jasmine years before, while she lay on the floor, bleeding and that if she ever left him, he'd "find her ass".  Jasmine is so distraught over seeing him again, that she DROPS THE GUN and just starts crying.

Jermaine goes for Eric's gun, and while they wrestle, Jasmine finally notices that she's dropped her gun and picks it up. Of course, there's a gunshot while the camera isn't pointed at anyone, so we are supposed to sit there and wonder who got shot for a moment. Of course, it's Jasmine. So Jermaine lets go of Eric while Eric goes completely off his rocker, randomly pointing the gun at his own head and then to Jermaine, and back again, screaming something about how they all have to die now.

So, rather than picking up the gun that Jasmine has dropped again, Jermaine stands up, takes his fucking shirt off, and screams "you wanna kill me? Go ahead and kill me motherfucker!" while Eric stands there looking "crazy". Another gunshot, again while the camera isn't on anyone, and surprise surprise, Eric is shot.

As he falls down, he reveals barking moonbat Jade standing behind him screaming "you thought you could put your hands on me and I wouldn't come and getcha?" But Jermaine promises to do anything if Jade will just call 911 for him. So she agrees, but discovers that the phone is still dead. So Jermaine tells her that there's a cell phone in the desk drawer (where the hell were the cell phones throughout the rest of the movie, like when Jermaine was trying to find his missing wife‽).

Now the torture is almost over. We're back in the courtroom, where the judge pronounces that Jade is to get her kid back due to "evidence" presented by Jade's new lawyer, Jermaine. Frankly, I think he only traded his wife's life for the kid's life. Jermaine walks towards the exit only to find Jasmine blocking the way. The camera work tries unsuccessfully to hide the height difference between the two characters while they give us more exposition so that we can learn that Jasmine has left her husband, served him with divorce papers, is now setting up her own abuse center, and that Jermaine wants to try and make it "like it used to be" but that Jasmine says it can never be the way it used to be. And she wheels herself out of the courtroom, now disabled from being shot.

Apparently I'm a masochist, because I went to look at the special features and found an alternate ending. And I watched it. Thank goodness they cut that out. So, while Jermaine is on the floor begging his wife not to die, and Jade is looking for the cell phone, Eric is lying dead on the floor. But since this is a movie, we all know that the bad guy never dies the first time. So he gets up and puts his foot on Jermaine's hand when Jermaine notices and goes for the gun on the floor. Eric takes his time aiming his gun at Jermaine's head. He takes exactly the amount of time necessary for Jade to shoot him in the back ... again. So it's not so much an alternate ending as a shoddy horror-movie double-take ending, because everything else is pretty much the same. Eric is still dead, Jasmine is still shot, Jade is still the one who kills Eric, and Jermaine still owes Jade.

*According to the director commentary (yes, I watched it), the video of Jermaine having sex in his wife's car happened within the last couple of weeks, not several years ago, even though that's what Jermaine said when Jasmine got the tape.  Eric, back when we thought he was "Terrance the buddy", actually helped Jermaine hookup with the waitress so that he could be there to secretly tape them in the parking lot.  But the scene where all this happens never got filmed, so the only thing we know about that affair is what Jermaine said about it, which is that it happened after they got married, but "years ago".

Oh my god - this movie is part of a trilogy!  There are two more of these movies out there!  I will not be reviewing them for ya'll - I think it's safe to assume the rest of them are just more of the same.  I wonder if they thought it was clever making a movie called Trois into a trilogy?

So the moral of the story is, if a man says he wants a threesome to "expand and explore his marriage", he's lying - he really just wants permission to fuck another woman; if a woman likes having a threesome, she might be gay or freaky and that's bad; and "you can put yourself out there, but you never know what you're gonna get - people be crazy yo", so don't fuck up your marriage by having a threesome.

By the way, this is the movie that gave me the inspiration for ending my reviews with "where I watch the crap so you don't have to".  You're welcome.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 23 - Same Time, Next Year

posted Apr 20, 2017, 1:13 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 5:44 PM ]

Same Time, Next Year (1978) - Netflix - IMDB Database - Amazon - Amazon Instant Video

I first saw this movie as a kid. It was playing on some B-movie channel like USA or Lifetime, and it had already started when I came upon it. I was flipping channels, and I only stopped only because I noticed Alan Alda. Being a huge fan of the show M*A*S*H, I had to see what Hawkeye was up to.

I actually have very little memory of the movie itself. All I was left with was the basic premise, which is of a man and a woman who are both married, but not to each other, who meet each other every year at the same time, at the same place, for a weekend affair. The movie spans about 25 years, and the idea of lasting 25 years with the same person, other than their spouse, touched me, even as young as I was.

So, I had added it to the Poly Movie List based on my memory of a feeling, rather than actually remembering the plot. And I decided eventually that I ought to watch the movie again, just to make sure it really deserved to be included on that list. And after re-watching it, y'know what? I'm not really sure.

We first meet George and Doris on the night that they meet each other. George is an accountant with a client in the area, and Doris is a housewife whose in-laws hate her, so she comes up to a nearby convent / retreat every year on this weekend to avoid them. The two find themselves drawn to each other in the restaurant of the bed & breakfast where George is staying and they spend the evening gazing into each other's eyes and talking deeply to each other. The next morning, they wake up to discover that they've had an affair.

Normally, cheating spouses is a pretty good guarantee of a movie getting itself banned from the Poly Movie List. But this one was a little different. George and Doris are not unhappy at home and looking to replace their respective spouses. They each love their respective spouses and have happy lives with them. It's just that they are so drawn to each other, but their affair does not change the love they have for their spouses, and they agonize over the duplicity throughout the entire movie.

[inserted movie clip about agonizing over cheating]

Also, this movie is different from most cheating movies because it's not a one-time thing, or over a short span of time. Their affair lasts for the bulk of their adult lives. They grow old together, and their affair deepens to a true love of each other. Yes, it's true, they do not tell their spouses, and that deceitfulness is what makes me waver on whether or not to keep this movie on the list. But George and Doris not only love each other, they grow to be fond of each other's families and spouses too, even though they have never met them.

George and Doris play a game, where they each tell one story that paints their spouses in a negative light, and then another story that paints them in a positive light. [inserted movie clip with some examples of telling the two stories]  These scenes are so touching, as they live vicariously through each other's stories and get to know each other's spouses from afar. We see them live through each other's pain and anguish, and we see them grow through each other's joys. We see George and Doris each take different life paths and learn how to grow back together.

And now, 2 small spoilers, but not the end of the film.


There are 2 particular scenes that make me hesitate to strike this movie from the list. In one of them, Doris confides that her husband may leave her, and she is distraught. In spite of her relationship with George, she does not want to lose her relationship with her husband. Doris goes to the car to get something, and her husband calls at that moment looking for her, believing it to be the number of the room where Doris is staying at the convent.

Although this is George's chance to finally get Doris away from her husband, he doesn't. He does his best to patch up their marriage and, when given the perfect chance to reveal the nature of his relationship with Doris, he covers it up for the sake of restoring their marriage. Yes, it's a lie, and I can't overlook that. But George's intentions are to do what he thinks would make Doris happiest, not what he can get out of the situation.

[inserted movie clip of George trying to fix Doris' marriage and rejecting the opportunity to reveal the deception]

The other scene is when George reveals that his wife found out about Doris, and has known for many years. But George's wife never said a word. She kept silent and allowed George to continue his annual trips, knowing full well that another woman was waiting for him. She loved George that much. And George, upon learning of her silence to allow him his indiscretion, falls in love with his wife all over again for her strength, her courage, and her compassion. Doris, too, admires the woman.

[inserted movie clip of George telling Doris that his wife learned of their affair]

So, I think the reason why I keep wanting to keep this movie on the list, is because this is what I imagine polyamorous relationships are like when the participants don't know that an option like polyamory exists. This is the story I believe that some of us could have found ourselves in if we had lived in a time and place where open relationships were just not allowed. This is what I think happens when we are not allowed to express ourselves and our love when love is bigger than our rules.

This is a movie about 4 people, even though we only ever meet 2 of them - about the love and desire that encompass them, through presidential terms, through wars, through changing fashions and political ideals, and over the course of a quarter of a century. So you may disagree with me about whether or not this is a poly movie, and I think some very valid points can be made on that side of the debate that I can't argue with. But I'm going to keep it on the list anyway.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

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